SBMA cites Ayta role in Freeport development
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT - Recognizing the contribution of the native Ayta community in the development and growth of this premier free port, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) conducted this month a series of activities to promote the welfare of the indigenous people here.
The activities were part of the celebration of the National Indigenous Peoples Month, which is being celebrated in the Philippines every October.
"This has also been a part of the SBMA tradition the celebration of our connection in the web of life with our Ayta brethren," said SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia.
"We know how the Aytas have been a big part of the economic success of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, so we're trying our best to give them due respect and recognition," he added.
SBMA's program for the National Indigenous Peoples Month kicked off on October 13 when members of the Ayta community at the Freeport's Pastolan village led the Monday flag-raising ceremony in front of the SBMA head office.
This was followed by a radio interview with Pastolan tribal chieftain Conrado Frenilla and the famous Ayta elder Kap Bonifacio Florentino who expounded on how the Subic tribesmen latched onto modernity ushered in by the SBMA while holding on to traditional Ayta values.
The interview was aired over the SBMA's 89.5 Bay FM station.
The IP Month also saw the launching of livelihood projects designed to benefit the Ayta womenfolk in Pastolan and the Sitio Kanawan in Morong, Bataan. These consisted of training and funding for the production of beaded purses and bags that the womenfolk could sell to increase their income.
Meanwhile, the October celebration also became more meaningful with the conduct of a seminar on climate change, a subject close to the hearts of Ayta tribesmen who have long served as guardians of the rainforest in this part of the country.
The seminar was conducted by the National Commission on Climate Change for the Magbikin and Amianan Aytas who roam the mountains of Olongapo City and neighboring parts of Subic Bay Freeport.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Region 3 likewise held a seminar on drug-abuse prevention at Sitio Pastolan in Hermosa, Bataan, to help prevent substance abuse among the Aytas.
The SBMA has been helping the Aytas in terms of employment, cultural assistance, scholarship for Ayta children, health and medical assistance, as well as in providing clean, potable water for their communities.
In October last year, the SBMA signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of a joint management agreement (JMA) for the use of portions of the Ayta ancestral domain in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
Chairman Garcia said this was the first agreement to provide the Subic Aytas with a comprehensive package of economic, social and cultural benefits since their tribal land had been occupied first by the United States as a military reservation for almost a century, and later when the Subic Bay Freeport was established in 1991.
The agreement provided for priority employment for qualified Ayta workers; annual livelihood assistance for 25 years; annual financial assistance for tribal fiesta and Christmas celebrations; scholarship and medical benefits; and the establishment of a fund for a five-percent share collected from direct business leases of land within the Ayta ancestral domain.
Early this year, the SBMA turned over P14.8 million to the Pastolan Aytas for land rental, the first time in the country's history that an indigenous people's group received a share of payment for the use by investors of their ancestral land, and another P1.8 million for this month. (30)